Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Little festive respite from meat reduction calls

It was the season to be jolly, however for Professor Tim Lang, the holiday traditionally linked with over-indulgence provided the perfect opportunity to call for consumers to dramatically reduce their meat consumption.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph on 30 December, the professor of food policy at London’s City University is quoted as saying that meat consumption is “out of control” and suggesting “we should go back to ancient traditions whereby meat was considered a treat and eaten only on feast days, such as Christmas”.

Using the argument that eating too much meat can cause obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, Professor Lang advocates that we should “eat meat once a week and have really good, grass-fed meat”.

The article then goes on to state that “producing meat is harmful for the environment as growing animals requires energy and water, and cows produce the greenhouse gas methane”.

By the time they reach this point in the article, it’s likely that most people involved in the meat industry will have either given up reading or will be swearing at their newspaper. This two-pronged attack using commonly held misconceptions regarding obesity and climate change as reasons to cut down on meat consumption has become all too familiar to an industry which often feels like its being used as a scapegoat.

It is very disappointing that we continue to encounter these misconceptions despite evidence to the contrary, but what is even more disappointing is the willingness of the media to trot out lines about the negative effects of red meat without stopping to consider their accuracy.

The reality is that lean red meat is extremely nutritious and can be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet – for more information have a look at our red meat and health factsheets. In terms of meat production and climate change, all food production has an environmental cost and making simplistic statements about a complex issue is entirely unhelpful. The facts about livestock and climate change are summarised on our website.

At the beginning of 2012, it would be good to believe that this could be the year when the industry hits back. EBLEX and other similar organisations can provide the ammunition, but we can all play a part in correcting people’s negative preconceptions about meat. The meat and livestock sectors bring tremendous benefits to this country, however these are all too often overlooked as a result of over-simplistic headlines and media friendly soundbites.